Isn't it frustrating when you have the perfect homeschooling day set up, and your kids have other ideas for how the day is going to go? I admit that I am a bit of a control freak. I like being the boss and having things go according to how I have planned. The problem is my kids are often not on the same wavelength as me and would rather do a million other things than the lessons I planned for the day.
Sound familiar? If not, then this post isn't for you. However if you are on the same struggle bus, then I have some insight that might make your days go a little easier.
I have been homeschooling for the past 5 years and have taught in the classroom for several years before that. I know how hard it is for kids to get into work mode first thing in the morning. One way that I have been able to get my kids firing, if not on all cylinders, then at least on more than one, is to get their bodies moving. If you can get outside, go for it. It doesn't need to be intense. Maybe a scooter ride around the block, or a walk, hopscotch, shooting some hoops, or jumping rope. According to this article, "Exercising before school can ease kids' anxiety, and prime their brain for learning."
If you can't get outside because of weather, there are plenty of ways to move your body indoors. Have a dance party, pushup contest, pillow fight, jumping jacks, crab walk, bear crawls, mountain climbers, etc. You are creative and you know who is even more creative? Your kids. Ask them and I'm sure they can give you lots of ideas of how to move inside.
Communication is Key
Before we start any formal schooling in our house, I write on our dry erase board everything that we need to get through that day. I think it is key that they know what is expected of them for the whole day. Go through the list of things broken down by subject that need to be accomplished.
When they are aware of what is expected of them, they can work with understanding and a goal. Hopefully this will get them on the same page as you from the start, and you will hear less complaining.
Why is Key
I often throw tasks and assignments at my kids and simply expect them to get through them without complaining. The reality is if someone was to do the same for me, I wouldn't blindly go through the list compliantly without wondering why am I doing this.
When we take the time to explain why we are doing the work we are, it gives meaning and connection for our kids. When they understand how it connects to their life then they, hopefully, will work with more heart and at least a little less whining.
If you can't really explain why you are giving them the work you are, then it is time to reevaluate your curriculum with elements that are more effective for you kids.
Choice is Power
Giving your kids a choice whenever it is possible will make them have a sense of ownership which will hopefully minimize the battling and complaining. Here are some easy ways to give them choice
- If you have your daily lessons written on the dry erase board, ask them what order they would like to accomplish the lesson.
- If you are doing a worksheet, tell them they only have to do half and they can pick what questions to work on.
-Present them with a few different hands-on activities for science and have them pick which one best resonates with them.
You don't have to completely give up the reigns, (although if you are an unschooled, more power to you.) You are still delivering the content that needs to be tackled, however you are just giving them freedom within a set context where they can make choices and take ownership of their own learning.
Motivate By Using a Carrot
Let's be real. If your boss came up to you and gave you a plan for your daily work that he put together, would you be happy, stay focused, and work diligently throughout the day? I know I wouldn't. This is where motivation comes in. How do we motivate our children to work hard and focus?
Create a "carrot" for them. Maybe after they get done with the first two subjects they earn some sort of reward. Free time, a treat, or screen time. It is intrinsic to work hard for something we want. It is also important if you keep it just within their reach. For example, I have found that it doesn't work when you tell them if you get all your work done for the day then you can play on your iPad. That seems like a daunting task that they would easily give up on. Instead in our house, I present them with the opportunity for reward broken up throughout the school day. When they know that they are close to the "carrot" they will be more motivated to work. So I might say something like, "Hey if you get through math and reading with a good attitude and without complaining, we can watch a show together, or go outside and play. That is doable and they can wrap their mind around it.
If you can find things that get your kid motivated and working, then it will make your days go a lot smoother and keep everyone happy.
Work in Time Sets
In our house we live and die by the timer. Fighting over a toy? Let me set the timer for 5 minutes, and then you can switch when the timer goes off. My kid can't seem to find the will to endure another writing activity, no worries, let me set the timer and we only have to work for 10 minutes.
I know that when I am faced with tasks that I don't want to do, like cleaning the kitchen, I will set the stopwatch for 10 minutes and promise myself that's all the time I am going to work on that. Usually my kitchen is cleaned in that amount of time. If not, I am so close to being done I want to simply finish anyway.
Same things go for schoolwork. If you give your kid an assignment and he crumbles into a ball on the floor claiming how life is unfair, tell him that he only has to work for a certain amount of minutes. Now here's the trick: Use an analog clock so they can watch how much time has passed. Color in with a dry erase marker how much time is allotted for the assignment. I have seen it go both ways. I have seen my kids who absolutely did not want to tackle a worksheet be comforted in the fact that they only have so much time left. But I have also seen them reluctantly get started only to get sucked into their work and work long past their time is over. Sometimes the hardest part about doing something is getting started. If you can use an analog clock to get started that might be the ticket to getting the work done.
Turn it Into A Game
Ugh not another boring worksheet! Anytime you can turn learning into a game, it will reduce the complaining from kids. There are plenty of games that you can buy that
focus on each subject. The following are some examples that have helped us have fun learning .
-Sequence - practice adding and subtracting
-Mathable -Stregnthen math skills (9 and up)
-Mathable Jr - Strengths basic math skills (5 and up)
-Prime Club - master multiplication, division, factor pre-teens and teens to inspire deeper math learning
- Proof - Practice multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, and square roots( 9 and up)
English/ Language Arts
-Boggle - teaches spelling, practice writing/reading
-Scrabble- teaches increased vocabulary, spelling
-Story cubes- develops creative storytelling
-Apples to apples-teaches parts of speech, creativity in story telling
-Scategories -develops better understanding for parts of speech
-Planet - Strengthen understanding of ecosystems (8 and up)
-Brain Games - Learn facts and explore the human brain (8 and up)
-Race to Space -Challenges higher level thinking in stem subject of science (8 and up)
Science Explosion - hands on learning and educational science game for boys and girls which encourages STEM learning for ages 5+
Social Studies -
-USA Bingo - a fun way to learn the geography of the U.S.
-Presidents game - A great trivia game to supplement learning about the U.S. presidents
-Continent race - helps children learn about the continents, countries, and flags of the world as they explore the world.
-Passport to Culture - Travel the Earth with over 1,000 new and unique questions on every country in the world!
But even if you don't have these board games you can also make up your own games. For example, after you cover content, make a multiple choice game and have your kids compete against each other based on what you just learned. Or ask them questions and for every answer that is correct, they can take a step forward. The first one to a set goal is the winner.
Make learning fun. Make it active. When I do this, I find that I am having more fun than the kids sometimes. This means that I am happier, which usually means they are happier and we are on the same page.
Keep It Positive
If you are still feeling like you are battling with your children, check in with the way that you respond to their negativity. This is a hard one. But sometimes I can find myself on a never ending loop of complaining, yelling, negativity.
A key to break this is to look for the positive. As small as it may be sometimes, if we can catch our kids doing something good, we need to call them out on it. You need to be proactive about this and aware. For example, just yesterday my son went and got a pencil and his notebook without me asking so that he could do his writing assignment. Small stuff , right? Nope. I let him know how proud I was that he took the initiative to get his pencil without me asking him. What happens when we call kids out on doing good things? We are shaping how they feel about themselves and shaping their self talk. If we are only responding to their whining and negativity, the endless loop plays on. When we catch them doing something good, they start believing that they are capable, strong learners and human beings. Success breeds success, simple. It's your job to look for the good things they are doing and consistently do it every day. At first, it will be hard, because it's not our default, but it works. I have seen my own kids' behavior change when I am proactively calling them out on their good behavior. Also when I taught in the classroom it helped my kids grow in character, work ethic, and developed positive stronger views of themselves.